Evoking the Memory by the Only ‘Spirit’ for the Prevention and Healing of Chronic Pain and Suffering

(سورة العنكبوت آية ٤٥)

Be informed that Allah has ordained for the believers to recite from the Quran prior to Salat. Then, to establish Salat consistently and as perfectly as possible. Be assured that when Salat is done as it should be, it shall disallow from engaging in debauchery and abominable acts. What is even greater than that is that Salat evokes Allah’s remembrance. Be assured that Allah is forever attentive to your actions and will give back accordingly’. 

(My translation of the scholarly reflections of Ayah 45 of Surah Al-ankabut) [i]


[i] The Holy Quran

Introduction

The literal meaning of the word pain in the English language is derived from Latin “poena”, meaning penalty. Scientifically, pain is seen as an important mechanism for human survival. It is the body’s alarm system, a warning that something is wrong which must be attended to. When we address the issue that is causing the pain appropriately, it goes away in no time. However, when the pain persists, it is a clear indicator that the problem has not been addressed effectively. This kind of pain is known as chronic pain. Unfortunately, the only method that modern day medicine offers to fix such pain is to kill it, literally, hence the name painkillers. Although painkillers relieve chronic pain, they come at a very hefty cost. They cause chemical changes to the brain and also kill brain cells in the process. The most affected areas of the brain are those that deal with cognition, learning and memory.[1]

Islam as the only religion with solutions to all human predicaments offers us its unique answer to chronic pain and suffering. It teaches that chronic pain, whether somatic or emotional can be successfully prevented and cured by infusing life in the human, which in turn evokes the memory, using the one and only Spirit here on Earth. To understand the mechanism of this Spirit on the human, we need to first define what constitutes human life and what entails death by the presentation of two issues as per Islam – the process of the creation of mankind and spontaneous sleep.

The Two Weighty Species الثقلان) (

Islam teaches that all parts of nature, including animals, plants, mountains, rocks and the stars operate in accordance with specific commands that have been encoded in their memory by the Creator, Allah. These divine codes will take care of their existence and ensure they live comfortably and harmoniously with their own kind and other parts of nature. These creatures are said to operate by instinct, which means they do not need to do any thinking or deciding before doing what they need to do. It also means that they are conscious and aware of the Creator at all times and follow His commands to the letter.

However, there is an exception to this rule in that there are two species who need to make a conscious choice to activate this encoded memory. They also need to have a reminding tool -which I will mention shortly- that is capable of evoking the coded memory. These two species are mankind and Jinn. The Jinn is a creation invisible to humans who also inhabit Earth, of whom the infamous Satan belongs to, mankind’s eternal enemy.

Choosing not to activate the innate codes, means these two species have to live life according to their own desires and whims. Such choice is not to be taken lightly because it will create a dangerous imbalance in nature. As such, both mankind and Jinns are referred to as weighty creatures in the Quran, which is an indicator that they have a great deal of influence on events. However, of these two, Allah has chosen mankind upon whom to confer the title Khalifa (خليفة). The dictionary meaning of this word entails honour, reigning, legacy, delegation power and dominance. This explains why all prophets and messengers who were sent to both to remind them of the Creator, belong only to the human species.

The Two Human Elements and the Word ( كن)

The birthplace of the first human Khalifa whose name is Adam, was not on Earth but in the Heaven. He came to life without being born like the rest of us, for he had no father or mother. Moreover, he did not go through infancy or childhood but emerged a fully-grown man of approximately 37 meters height and four meters wide.[2]

Adam was created directly by Allah, the possessor of the 99 names of Perfect Beauty and Goodness. Allah created Adam by combination of two elements only; the inanimate substance called clay (طين) and the animate element called the Spirit (روح). The clay was brought by the angels from different parts of the Earth and was shaped by Allah Himself into the physical body. Then Allah blew the Spirit that came directly from Him into the physical part. Allah then activated this entity saying, “Kun” meaning, “Be alive”, and so Adam became alive.

After that, Allah created his female counterpart in the same manner as Adam. The pair was given the needed knowledge on the appropriate do’s and don’ts in Heaven. However, they disobeyed the given instructions by falling prey to the deceit of Satan. The Quran also mentions that forgetfulness, specifically on the part of Adam, was another reason behind their disobedience. However, they both repented this sin and Allah accepted their repentance. Eventually, Adam, his partner, as well as Satan, were all descended to Earth to begin the trial of mankind of who was going to be best in deeds.[3]

Through this pair came the rest of mankind in the usual known conception method. However, there is an invisible step in the process of child making that we wouldn’t know about without knowledge of the Divine revelation. According to the prophetic tradition or Hadith, every pregnant woman is sent an angel at her early stages of pregnancy to blow an individual assigned spirit into the human foetus she is carrying.

The only exception to this normal conception process was the prophet Jesus who had no father. His conception was done by the Word of Allah, which Allah sent directly to Miriam, the mother of Jesus. The Spirit was blown into her vagina by the angel Jibreel (the Holy Spirit). This produced a one-of-a-kind baby boy whose pregnancy period lasted only a few hours of the day and who spoke fluently to his mother while she was pregnant with him and to other people as a new-born baby. Jesus in the Quran is referred to as the ‘Word of Allah’ and the ‘Spirit from Him’.

However, the Quran does not assign to Jesus any Godly titles like the ‘son of God’ or ‘God’, as taught in some Christian denominations. On the contrary, the Quran stresses his human origin by pointing to the similarities between the creation of Jesus and Adam; see the table below. 

Adam and Jesus 

Rest of mankind

Allah’s direct involvement in the creation process.

The Word of Allah spoken directly by Him.

The Spirit element blown by Allah Himself in the case of Adam and by the angel Jibril in the case of Jesus.

No male or female ancestry for Adam and no male lineage for Jesus.

One of a kind.

Allah’s indirect involvement by automating the process through the usual conception method.

No word involved in the creation but made available to everyone in the form of the holy books, as will be explained shortly.

Spirit blown into foetus by unknown angel.

Must have ancestry (both male and female lineage).

All of the same kind in terms of birth.

Jesus as taught in Islam had not been crucified. He was ascended to heaven to prevent his killing and will be sent back to earth to finish his incomplete mission, which you can read about from Islamic sources readily available on the internet. Until this miraculous event takes places, we have only one Spirit here on Earth to cater for all of our spiritual needs as shown below.

The Two Types of Spirit ((الروح

The literal meaning of the Arabic word, “Ruh” or spirit, is ‘to bring to life’, or an “animating force”. The meanings of words that share the same triliteral root include ampleness, comfort, soothe, cheerfulness, euphoria, wind, energy, motion and strength.

As for the connotation of the word spirit, there are two types of spirits that are described in the Quran and the Hadith of the prophet. The first type refers to the Spirit by which human life was established which we discussed above. This kind of spirit is the enigma that Allah has declared as part of His own affairs. The Quran discourages the believers from seeking to study it or speak about it more than what is made obvious from the narratives of the Quran and Hadith. Although this Spirit is invisible to the human naked eye, its effect is very visible on the human because when it ceases to dwell in the human body, one is pronounced dead and must be disposed of. 

The second type of spirit refers to the one that has life-sustaining properties. This Spirit refers to every holy book (in its original language) which was sent directly from Allah to mankind over the course of history. Islam teaches that the only surviving Spirit of the second type is the Holy Quran. The rest, like the Torah of Moses & Injeel of Jesus have undergone extensive loss and distortion over the passage of time as the mission for their preservation was entrusted to people. Furthermore, they were only intended to be the spiritual source for a specific generation and time.

Meanwhile, the Quran has escaped this fate because Allah took the mission of its preservation upon Himself; moreover, this Quran is meant to be the spiritual source for all coming generations until the end of time. Unlike the first type spirit, Islam encourages us to ponder about it and seek to discover its infinite hidden gems. This spirit has visible and invisible aspects to it which you can read about in another essay on this website entitled, “the 10 attributes of the Spirit and its name Al-Quran”. When this Spirit is missing in the life of the human, one is deemed to be “living dead”, as will be explained below.

The power of this type of spirit is not any less miraculous than that of the first kind. To fully comprehend its powers, nothing demonstrates them better than the person of Jesus, for he is the “Word” of Allah and the Spirit from Him, which the angel Jibreel has blown into his mother, just as the Quran is the “Speech” of Allah and the Spirit from Him, which the same angel communicated covertly to the prophet Muhammed.

From the Quran, we learn that Allah has endowed Jesus with the ability to raise the dead back to life and to create life from scratch by shaping birds from clay in a similar fashion to real birds, then blowing into them to become living, flying birds. Also, Jesus was able to heal people’s hereditary traits, by the permission of Allah, such as congenital blindness (اكمه) and (ابرص) albinism. Jesus was also given the knowledge of the unknown as he was able to tell his people of what they have stored in their houses.

As such, the Quran should have similar powers to that of Jesus. However, the role of the Quran is not to alter natural laws of visible nature, nor to heal physical congenital traits of the individual as Jesus did. Rather, its speciality is to develop the invisible natural traits of the human “Nafs” that are common to all people. This function of the Quran is indeed as miraculous as that which Jesus did. The only difference is that Jesus’s miracles were easily verified by sight by everyone who witnessed them (seeing is believing), whereas this miracle of the Quran can only be substantiated by personal experience (believing and practising is seeing). What is the human Nafs?

The Two Human Selves or Nafs  (نفس)  

The word Nafs has many literal meanings, as is the case with all Arabic words. This include self-same, valuable, person, essence, intention and blood. The meanings of other words of the same triliteral root include; breath, spacious and emotions.

As for its connotative meaning, I will provide here the explanation to this word from two notable Quran scholars. The first one is from an ancient era—AbdulAllah ibn Abbas (619–697 AD). He explains the word Nafs mentioned in Ayah (42), Surah Azummar, that the human has two selves; the self of the spirit by which life is established (I will call this the automated-self) and the self of the mind which discernment belongs to (I will call it the wilful-self). This explanation is substantiated by other parts of the Quran such as the fact that the wilful Nafs is assigned its own eyes and ears. Also, the Quran speaks of this Nafs as residing withing the body, specifically in the chest area. The other scholar is the contemporary Ash-sharawi (1911–1998). In his explanation of the word Nafs, he distinguishes between the two aspects of the human actions; the voluntary and involuntary.

From the above, we can say that the human body is a host to two invisible entities that are separate to the body. These two selves have opposite function and conflicting orientation. One is responsible for involuntary functions while the other is for voluntary acts. As for orientation, the automated-self is one that is always following the encoded memory impeded by the Creator and therefore is aware of Him at all times. On the other hand, the wilful-self needs to make a conscious choice to activate its encoded memory. Furthermore, it also needs a specific tool to do that, which is the Spirit or the Quran, as will be explained further shortly. Choosing not to activate the encoded memory means the wilful-self has made the choice to keep hold of its default traits. Although these traits have important functions for human survival, they will cause great dissonance between the two selves if they are not kept in check. The following are the main attributes of the wilful-self common to all mankind as per the Quran and Hadith.

First, the wilful-self is very impatient and likes things to be done at supersonic speed. This is in stark contrast to the automated-self which does things slowly and takes its time. Also, the wilful-self has its own eyes and ears that allow it to see deep into matters, yet it prefers to keep them shut so that it can see things the way it fits with its own made-up reality. The automated-self on the other hand sees things objectively as they are. Moreover, the wilful-self has unlimited appetite for the pleasures of the material and is always pushing to accumulate and consume. Conversely, the automated-self is confined by the size and ability of the human body and is satisfied with limited amount. Last but not least, the wilful-self is a stress machine that is always in a state of hysterical panic. The automated-self is calm and collected.

These significant differences between the two selves are more than enough to trigger a constant state of unrest which, in turn, give rise to chronic pain and suffering. So in order to avoid this constant conflict, we can either bring the wilful-self in line with the automated-self by the activation of its encoded memory, or give the wilful-self a break from its duties. The latter option is exactly what happens during sleep as seen from the Islamic perspective. Sleep is the best instrument to show the clear distinction between the two selves in action.

Spontaneous Sleep is for Un-mindfulness

Sleep as per Islam is considered a form of death because it requires disconnection between the different components of the human, just as life was due to the link of the same parts. Sleep is thus called the brother of death or mini death, as opposed to major death. The difference between the two is that in major death the automated-self is called by Allah to depart the body, leaving it a corpse that must be disposed of. Departure of the automated-self means the wilful-self must follow suit because its existence depends on the former. Conversely, in mini death, it is the wilful-self alone that is called by Allah to leave the body, making it a living machine without a will and extremely limited movement. Departure of the wilful-self does not adversely affect the functions of the automated-self during the temporary separation.

The Hadith states that when the wilful-self is released from the body during sleep, it is taken to the realm of the dead. By looking at the terminology used in the Quran, we can infer the purpose of this release. In the Quran, Allah describes sleep as Subat (سبات), which connotatively means to rest. The literal meaning of this word is to relieve, clip or to separate. These meanings reveal that the separation of the wilful-self from the body allows both selves rest: the wilful-self from steering the body and the automated-self from executing the endless demands of the wilful-self. When the two are in a state of rest, no pain and suffering is felt as we can all attest to when we sleep.

In another place in the Quran, Surah Az-zumar, Ayah 42, Allah uses the verb Tawafa (توفى) when speaking of sleep. Connotatively this word means ‘to cause to die’. Literally, it means to counterbalance, evenness, and conclude. The literal meaning reveals that sleep is a regulatory mechanism to keep the body in a steady state.

However, these benefits of sleep are not an incitement to stay in a state of oblivion as not all unaware states have the same effects of sleep. For instance, unconsciousness such as one induced by medical anaesthesia or illicit drugs do not provide the body healing and growth like sleep does, even though they give relief from chronic pain and suffering. The reason behind this lies in the actual method used. Induced or contrived unconsciousness is an outside-in procedure. An outside-in process involves the violation of the body by the introduction of a foreign substance to it. This leads to communication break down with the automated-self preventing it from carrying out its usual duties. This effectively puts the automated-self in a state of forced rest, until the drugs wears off. The disruption of the involuntary functions of the automated-self is a very dangerous thing to do, which is why medical anaesthesia is always administered in a very controlled environment due to its lethal potential.  

As the automated-self is put in a state of forced rest, so is the wilful-self. This explains the feelings of ease, comfort, euphoria and elation that are often reported with drug use. Drugs can also induce the giggles for no apparent reason. However, this rest is nothing like that which sleep offers. This rest is preceded by causing harm to the body and is followed by the emergence of new pain or the worsening of existing pain. This is not to mention that sleep is free of charge while induced unconsciousness often comes with a hefty price tag.

We can also liken the difference between spontaneous and contrived unconsciousness to death by natural causes and death by killing. While both types send the person to the grave, they are anything but the same. The former is an inside-out process which happens by the calling of the automated-self by Allah to leave the body without any violation to the body in the process. On the other hand, death by killing is an outside-in process where some kind of damage must be caused to the body (whether internally or externally). This damage makes the body uninhabitable to the automated-self, forcing it to leave.

Furthermore, the consequences of each type of death are worlds apart. Death by killing, especially cold blooded killing as opposed to killing by mistake, has serious social and legal ramifications and could lead to endless wars and the loss of thousands if not millions of human lives. It creates a dangerous imbalance between the living and the dead. On the other hand, dying by natural causes is a necessary process for the survival of human life to keep a steady balance between the number of living and dead.

However, despite all of the benefits of spontaneous sleep, we cannot use it for the relief of chronic pain and suffering when needed most since it cannot be brought about at will. The only other reliable and safe option is to put the wilful-self at rest by pulling it towards the automated-self to become in line with it. Indeed, this is an impossible feat to accomplish without the wonder of the Holy Quran.

The Spirit is for Memory and Mindfulness

Human life as per Islam entails cohesion and the amalgamation of the human parts at all levels. This requires not only the actual unification of the two selves within the body but also the integration of their mental and emotional orientation. As mentioned earlier, the human automated-self is always aware and mindful of its creator and follows His commands to the letter. As for the wilful-self, the Quran says that every human is born aware of the Creator as Allah has spoken to every human self directly and introduced Himself to them when we were in the nucleus state. During this introduction, everyone professed that Allah is their God. However, this awareness is later forgotten due to parental influence through the introduction of their own man-made religions. So unless the person makes a conscious choice at some stage of his life to recall this memory using the Spirit (the Quran), he is considered dead because the two selves are not in unity in terms of belief.

The Quran is the only tool available which can retrieve this very ancient memory, hence its descriptors of Zikr and Zikra. Zikr and Zikra. They respectively mean the incarnation of memory and mindfulness and the incarnation of nostalgia and reminiscence. As soon as one listens to the Quran, the automated-self will recognise it as the Speech of God and respond to it appropriately. The Quran will capture its attention and reinvigorate its embedded memory for it is of the same kind.  This leads to feelings of comfort, serenity and ease. Other feelings invoked by the Quran in the listener is of nostalgia and reminiscence, which can be seen in the shedding of tears, as the automated self is reminded of its place of origin, Allah Himself. This miracle of the Quran can be validated by anyone, not only by those who speak the Arabic language, the language of the Quran.

The Quran is also a unique kind of Zikr in that it can easily be contrived or summoned to the human memory and it will respond readily. That is why the Quran can very easily be memorized in its entirety by anyone whether a young child or an adult, a male or a female and an Arab or non-Arab. This is unlike the Torah (original form and language) which is also Zikr, it is reported that only 4 people were able to learn it off by heart fully. Those people were Moses, Jesus, Joshua (Moses‘ assistant)  and Uzair.

However, for the Quran to interact with the wilful-self and evoke its encoded memory, it needs to be allowed in wilfully by the person. Only when one accepts Islam willingly, will the Quran start performing wonders on his wilful-self. The Quran will align the wilful-self with the automated, a process known as Istikama. Istikama literally means to straighten up, rise, align, be balanced, endure and persist. It is interesting to note that the literal meaning of the word ‘Istikama’ is the same as the word ‘resurrect’ in Latin or ‘Anastasia’ in Greek. According to Wikipedia:

“Resurrection, from the Latin noun resurrectio -onis, from the verb rego, “to make straight, rule” + preposition sub, “under”, altered to subrigo and contracted to surgo, surrexi, surrectum (“to rise”, “get up”, “stand up” + preposition re-, “again”, thus literally “a straightening from under again”.  

When both selves become aligned with the Quran, only then is the person considered fully alive and called conscious. Reaching the state of Istikama is as miraculous as bringing the dead back to life as in the miracles of Jesus. Furthermore, when the two selves are aligned, it becomes possible to engage in Istikama deeds. Istikama connotatively means “to be virtuous and moral”. There are many Istikama deeds. However, there is one particular deed that encompasses all of them, the daily Salat. The ritual of Salat is very special in Islam as it is called the “backbone” of the religion. Salat is also the only ritual that must include the recitation of the Quran for it to be fulfilled.

When we look closely at Salat, we find that it is all about memory work. Salat requires the recalling of the Quran and memorization of other prayers to be fulfilled. Although it is true that Salat contains a physical aspect, these can be circumvented in situations of physical incapacitation or sickness that prevent movement. The mental aspect of Salat however is always required no matter the situation. Invoking the memory in Salat is as important as being unaware in sleep. In fact, when we compare Salat to sleep, we can’t help but notice that Salat is the exact opposite to sleep, just as life is the opposite to death. Here is how they differ:

First, in sleep, the wilful-self is released from the body, putting both selves at rest from voluntary activities. Salat confines both selves, impelling them to engage in implied restrictive activities. Second, sleep makes one unaware, while Salat makes one truly mindful and conscious. Third, sleep is a spontaneous process with no choice needed from the human, while Salat is voluntary and requires a will. Salat can replace most of sleep time as a regulatory mechanism to ensure steadiness of the human, but no amount of sleep can replace the effects of Salat on the traits of the wilful-self. Last but not least, and greatest of all, Salat connects with the Ever-Living God while sleep connects with the realm of the dead.  

Salat for Invoking Remembrance of Allah

As the Quran can easily capture and attract the human memory, Salat can summon Allah’s attention towards the person, hence Salat is called Zikrul Allah (ذكر الله). Salat is the opportunity to come face-to-face with Allah, literally. According to Hadith, Allah turns His Majestic Face towards the believer during Salat. To grasp how close one can get to Allah during Salat, we look at the method of its ordination. 

Salat—unlike the rest of the Islamic rituals—was ordained in the invisible realm by direct communication from Allah during the journey of Israa and Miraj (الاسراء والمعراج). The journey started when the prophet Muhammed was taken by angels from Makkah to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Palestine; from there, the prophet was ascended to the invisible realm where he was given the opportunity to meet Allah directly. As a reminder of this Divine contact between the Creator and the created, Muslims recite At-tahayat (التحيات) in every Salat, which is the greeting that was exchanged between the prophet and Allah in that meeting.

The prophet came out of this Divine meeting with the ordination of 50 daily prayers, which was reduced to only five upon the recommendation of the prophet Moses, whom the prophet met during this journey. The prophet Muhammed had also met with all other prophets and messengers sent to people in the history of mankind. They all joined the prophet Muhammed in doing  Salat, with the prophet leading the prayer as a unifying religious act that was ordained to all people in every Divine Message that Allah has sent to mankind.

The Denotation of Salat

Salat’s powerful effects on the regulation of human behaviour and feelings can be comprehended  by learning its literal meanings. The triliteral root of the word Salat is (ص ل ا) sad lam alif (SLA) or (ص ل و) sad lam waw (SLO) (SLO is the same linguistic root for prayer in Aramaic language).[4]

The term Salat in the Arabic language is derived from two forms; the first is As-Sallaya  .الصَّلاية This word refers to a mortar that is used for pounding raw materials when making  perfume or medicine. The second form is Sal-la صَلَّى. Here are some examples of how this form of the word is used in daily language:

1.    Sal-la Al-asa alla anar,  صَلَّى العَصَا على النارِ  means to straighten the crookedness of a log or stick on fire.

2.    Sal-la Al-lahm,  صَلَى اللَّحْمَ means to barbecue meat on  fire.

3.    Sal-la yadahu or nafsahu, وصَلَّى يَدَهُ بالنارِ :  سَخَّنَها means to get bodily warmth from  fire.

4.    Asala’ and Asali, والصِّلاءُ والصَّلَى :  اسمٌ للوَقُودِis a name for fuel.

5.    Masalai,  المصالي شَرَكٌ يُنْصَب للصَّيْدrefers to traps for catching birds or other animals. This yields the meanings of restrain and confinement of the human conscious self and the body to do certain acts.

6.    The word ‘Salat’ also means verbal supplication and invocation.[5]

These meanings explain the powers of Salat mentioned in Surah Al-ankaboot, Ayah 45 on immoral behaviour. This Ayah is the one mentioned at the start of this essay.  Salat is a compulsory practice even for children from the age of 7 so that it builds the needed immunity against immorality from an early age.

In addition, while Salat has strong effects on the wrong behaviour, it has gentle and soothing impact on human emotions. In Surah Al-hijir, Ayah (97-98) Allah teaches the believers to use Salat as their coping mechanism when faced with life tragedies and daily concerns beyond their control.

The Connotation of Salat

Salat refers to the five daily prayers Muslims must perform every day. Despite Salat’s unique structure and contents, it is the same as any other job in that it can be done properly or poorly. The closest Salat is done to the side of the correct, the stronger the effects on the person. Salat done incorrectly will not bear any of the fruits mentioned earlier. That is why Salat is always referenced to with the  verb “Akim” “Akama” or “Ekama” (أقام)(اقامة) . This word means to “do justice to” and “to perfect”. It also means to be permanent and consistent. So Salat done to perfection and consistently is one that brings all  aspects of the human together, physical actions, mental invocation and emotional fervour, which brings us to the concept of  “Khoshou” خشوع.

Salat Hygiene

When you look up the word ‘Khoshou’ on different sites in English, you will find it explained as ‘to concentrate’, ‘to pay attention’ or ‘to focus’. Some even translate it as a form of trance. While Khoshou can be described using some elements of these meanings, they do not fully capture its essence. By looking at the dictionary definition, we can easily determine the correct way to explain “Khoshou”. The different meanings include ‘humble’, ‘humility’, ‘to yield’, ‘lean on’, ‘surrender’, ‘give in’ and ‘let go’.

These meanings reveal that “Khoshou” is rather an emotional state instead of a mental exercise. “Khoshou” is a state of letting go by showing emotions such as shedding of tears and even weeping. Engaging the emotion during Salat is the guaranteed method to maintain a non-wandering mind in Salat. To make it easier to engage the emotion in Salat, it is highly recommended to do a preparatory recitation of the Quran prior to Salat so that one is already in a state of mindfulness and feeling of nostalgia.

To give a real-life example of the outcome of Salat perfected physically,  mentally and emotionally, I will narrate the famous story of the well-known scholar Urwah ibn al-Zubair who lived in Medinah and died in 713 AD. He was famous for his ability to always perform Salat with Khoshou. The story goes that one-day, Urwah received an invitation from the Khalifa (The title given to the Muslim ruler at the time) who was based in Damascus to come for an official visit. It is reported that Urwah was one of the Khalifa’s trusted advisers.

So, Urwah set out on the journey accompanied by his eldest son named Muhammed. During the journey, Urwah developed a swelling on his foot and arrived at the Khalifa’s Palace limping. Upon examination by the Khalifa’s doctors, they recommended that amputation was the only available treatment method. When Urwah agreed to the procedure, the doctors told him they will need to put him to sleep and offered him intoxicant to drink. Urwah refused citing its prohibition. He was then offered another form of sedation but again refused saying that he would never want to be voluntarily unconscious of Allah and suggested his own strategy for pain relief. He said to the doctors that they should start doing the procedure while he was in Salat at the time of Sujud (سجود) (putting the forehead on the ground). They did as he suggested and successfully amputated his foot while he was in complete silence. However, when they reached to the final stage where boiling oil was to be used to staunch the bleeding, he fell unconscious naturally.

While he was unconscious, the news came to the Khalifa that Urwah’s eldest son who had accompanied him on his journey had been killed in an accident at the palace’s stable by a horse’s jolt. Upon waking, Urwah was given the Khalifa’s condolences regarding both his amputated foot and his son’s death. He was reported to have said, “Allah has given me four limbs and has taken just one and has given me seven children and taken only one, how very generous of Him!” This shows the miraculous effects of Salat on physical and emotional pain.

Salat is Self-gratification not Self-denial

Salat’s effects extend also to how one feels about material gains and pleasures that are NOT prohibited and morally sound. As life is invigorated by the Spirit, the person becomes less dependent on the material and could easily dispense with so many material pleasures. This is not called self-denial but self-sufficient due to feeling satisfied and full by the Spirit. This state of being has a name in Islam, which is Zuhd (زهد).

Some people wrongly translate Zuhd as asceticism or link it to Sufism. The matter of the fact is that Sufism is a foreign concept to Islam as it emerged many centuries after the prophet’s death. When looked at closely, Sufism is another name for Sikhism or even Buddhism, particularly in its quest to annihilate or quash the wilful-self by denying it material pleasures it desperately yearns for. Zuhd on the other hand entails no fighting with the self, no yearning for the material and most importantly, it does not kill normal human feelings towards the material pleasures but enhances them. Thus Zuhd is not self-annihilation as the Sufis say but the highest level of self-preservation.

To give a real-life example of what constitutes true Zuhd, no one could outrun the Prophet Muhammed (). As the prophet lived mostly on Salat and particularly on the middle of the night Salat as his main source of energy, he used to eat and sleep very little and had very few material possessions. Aisha, the youngest wife of the prophet reported that in the prophet’s household, fire was lit for cooking only once every two months. When asked how they got by without cooking, she replied, “by water and dates”.

Even sexual activity was not a daily practice of the prophet. This was not due to a defect in his manhood—the Hadith reports that the prophet Muhammed had the physical strength and sexual stamina of 40 men—but because he willingly chose to get the relief needed by spiritual means, not the physical. His wife Aisha reported that when it was her turn to spend the night with the prophet (as each of his nine wives took turn), the prophet would often excuse himself from the marital bed saying, “dear Aisha, I seek your permission to leave our bed so that I could worship Allah”, to which she would reply, “I love to stay close to you dearly, but what I love even more is to choose what you fancy over what I love”.

The prophet also had very few material possessions, but not because he was poor; he was in fact assigned a very generous allowance as the leader of the believers and could have lived a very affluent life had he so willed. He rather willingly chose to disperse of his wealth in a timely manner to be given to those in dire need. It was reported that the prophet never kept money or possessions in his house that he had no use for on that day.

Despite the prophet’s scant dependence on the material, he continued to be very much involved in worldly affairs as the head of the Islamic state, performing all his required duties to the highest standard. His daily routine was to walk in the markets to check on people’s livelihoods, trade transactions offering guidance and directions. During these walks, he would offer his help to widows, orphans and the needy. He was also very heavily involved in the affairs of his own household as father and husband to his very large family. It is reported that he used to serve himself and his family, recycle his clothes by mending them, repair his own shoes and milk his lamb. He also had an extended circle of close friends and companions and was able to manage it all without ever neglecting one role over the other. His dependence on Spirit rather than the material for sustenance allowed him to do things no amount of material sustenance or possessions could have ever delivered. The prophet literally lived off Salat and the Quran.

Salat was not only the means for the prophet to gain unparalleled spiritual and physical strength and stamina, but it also provided for his feelings when he needed emotional soothing. It is reported that whenever the prophet felt annoyed or bothered by a particular matter, he sought solace in Salat and requested Bilal (the prophet’s personal Mua’azin) to call out the Azan saying, “let us get the soothing and ease we need by doing Salat”. 

The Azan (الأذان)

Azan is the method by which Muslims are alerted and summoned to the time of Salat.  One of the verbs used in Azan is Hayya حَيَّ, which is often translated as ‘hasten to’. However, this is an incomplete translation as it does not consider the word’s root meaning, which is ‘to live’ or ‘life’. So, taking its root meaning into consideration within the context of Azan would make my own translation of this word something like, ‘come zealously and without delay to true life, Salat’, or ‘truly alive those who come zealously without delay to Salat’, or ‘true life is only possible by turning out zealously to Salat without delay’, or ‘you have not really lived if you do not turn out to Salat zealously and on time’, and even, ‘hop on Salat on time and zealously to experience true life!’. Only such translations reflect precisely how Salat makes one feel, truly alive!


[1] Zachary Snitzer, 2014.The Effects of Painkillers on the Brain and Body.

[2] Hadith of the prophet.

[3] Refer to the reflections of the prominent Islamic scholar Ash-sharawi on the creation of Adam and Hawwa. تفسير قصة خلق حواء فى القرآن الكريم للشيخ الشعراوي البقرة Ayah 22 from minute 5 onwards.

[4] The word “Prayer” in Aramaic is Slotha, from the root SLA, the same as the root of Salat. Kirk Kimball, 2002. Behold the Man: The Real Life of the Historical Jesus. p.157.

[5] Online Arabic dictionary: see the verb صلا